State GOP promises outreach to minority voters

Published 10:16 am Monday, February 15, 2016

By David Montgomery

St. Paul Pioneer Press

Minnesota Republican leaders said this week that the party needs to do a better job reaching out to ethnic minorities, and promised to redouble their outreach efforts for years to come.

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The GOP “Opportunity In Action” initiative calls for recruiting Republican leaders inside 12 demographic groups — some traditionally friendly to Republicans, such as senior citizens or faith communities, and others notable DFL strongholds, such as Hmong and Somali immigrants.

“We need to broaden and deepen our reach,” said Keith Downey, chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota.

Just under 19 percent of Minnesotans are people of color, according to census data, while exit polls from the 2012 election found around 13 percent of voters were nonwhite. Republican Mitt Romney and Democrat Barack Obama were in a dead heat among white voters, according to the exit polls, but Obama won the state overall by 8 percentage points on the strength of overwhelming support among minority voters.

At the Thursday event rolling out the initiative, both traditional Republican leaders and Republicans from minority communities said that what was needed was better messaging, not new policies.

“It’s obvious to us when we look at election results that we haven’t done as good a job as we could in getting that (Republican) message out, and in fact doing more than delivering a message, but really integrating with and connecting with folks in those communities,” said Downey.